Category Archives: Zinfandel

For the Love of Zin: Joel Gott – 2009 Zinfandel

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Joel Gott – 2009 Zinfandel

Life without Zin finally caught up to me. That, and the great sale price of $9.99 from $18.99.  I find I am not alone since I just ordered another case for our store this week.  It is interesting how sale prices draw attention to wines one might not know. Once discovered our customers keep coming back for more whether on sale or not for the most part, but of course more so with a deal to be had.

As a lover of Zinfandel, per my many posts on this varietal,  I  had my eye on this one in particular for a while.  Once the sale was announced I had no excuse.  Even better I enjoyed it and have recommended it to our customers ever since. Therefore our diminishing inventory 🙂

The 2009 vintage, released September 2011,  is 100% Zinfandel from various areas in California: Napa Valley, Amador, Lodi, Dry Creek, Mendocino and Russian River.  Barrel aging was done in 30% new American oak and comes in with an approximate alcohol level of  14.5%.

My notes:

Dark fruit on the nose such as; plum, prune and raisin. In addition I  sensed green pepper, grass and cedar/oak. On the palate the addition of cherry [red fruit]  may explain why I was surprised to note a strong sweetness I usually do not note on this varietal, but this faded nicely to the background as the wine breathed and expanded. An hour into the drinking experience I also noted an earthiness of dirt/soil and Kirsch [again cherry].

We truly enjoyed adding this wine to our repertoire and am already looking forward to trying it again. Conveniently the 2011 vintage has now arrived at our store and SIDE by SIDE taste test immediately started screaming in my head!  Ahh..the things I must do for The Love of Zin.  ¡SALUD!

Winemaker tasting notes:

The 2009 Joel Gott Zinfandel has aromas of sweet cherries, plums, blackberries and vanilla spice. The wine is juicy and full of red fruit, with a soft mid-palate and a bright, lingering raspberry finish. Drier in style than most Zinfandels.

2009 Wine growing notes:

Throughout California, 2009 was an exceptional harvest—touted by many as the best vintage of the decade. Moderate temperatures across the state allowed the fruit to ripen slowly, creating good quality fruit with great flavor and depth. Dry farmed, old-head-trained vines in Lodi and Amador produced dark, intense, structured fruit, while fruit from the Napa Valley harvest added power and complexity. The cooler climates of Dry Creek, Mendocino and Russian River produced fruit with classic, peppery Zinfandel aromatics, good acidity and great fruit flavors. Bringing together fruit from these varied regions helped to create a balanced Zinfandel.

Winemaker information:

While running Palisades Market in Calistoga in the early 1990s, Joel Gott noticed a growing need for quality, value wines. Having worked at Kenwood Winery in Sonoma County, and with a family history in the business, Joel felt sure he could fill this void in the marketplace.

In 1996, Joel purchased a few tons of Zinfandel from family friend and grape grower Tom Dillian. With the help of then-girlfriend—and winemaker at Joseph Phelps—Sarah, Joel produced his first vintage of Dillian Ranch Amador County Zinfandel. The wine received praise from Robert Parker and Wine Spectator, which was all the encouragement Joel needed to produce additional varietals.

Creating quality, balanced important wines continued to be important, and in 2005 the 815 California Cabernet Sauvignon won a Food & Wine American Wine Award. Two years later the California Zinfandel would do the same. Joel Gott Wines continues to grow and receive accolades for delivering a great product at a value price point.

HARK – The Holidays Approacheth!!

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Happy Holidays

With that statement from a friendly customer a few days ago I knew it was here. As it quickly approaches the holiday season is once again sneaking up on us. From dead of summer to Halloween POW! it’s time for; Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Christmas, Kwanzaa, Three Kings Day and New Years Eve just to name a few.

Recently I was asked to act as Interim Store Director for our Winn Dixie liquor store; thus begins my first holiday season in retail. Fortunately sales of wine and spirits are through the roof with daily sales increases in the high double and even triple digits compared to last year. Thank you wine buyers!

With the holidays upon us and family parties to help plan and take part in I have given a lot of thought to what wines to bring, gift, recommend and most importantly partake of. Luckily 2012 has exposed me to many good wines,  most of them affordable and easily accessible.  So upon much review I hereby offer what I hope will be a list of good value very drinkable wines that I have discovered throughout the year. Wines  meant to be shared with family and friends.  My official:   2012  Whine and Cheers for Wine Holiday List. For additional information on each just click on the links provided below.

Old Vine Zinfandel– After many tastings this year of this varietal, and I might add not really a stinker in the bunch, I ended up with an almost tie between Project Paso and Four Vines. The winner, FourVines which I have now had about three times in the last month. For the value it cannot be beat. Usually priced in the $12.00 range it can be found on sale now for $7-10.00.

Pinot Noir– Again it came down to two: Chile’s The Show and California’s Concannon. The winner is the Concannon 2010 Selected Vineyards Pinot Noir. Price range: $8-12.00.

Red Blend I lucked out with blends this year and the two that automatically come to mind would be; Argentina’s Amado Sur [$11-13.00] by Trivento and the Dream Tree Crush by rocker Dave Matthews and Steve Reeder [$15-18.00].  If you are looking for a bolder taste I’d choose the Malbec, Bonarda, Syrah blended Amado Sur. For smooth and light I’d suggest the Dream Tree Crush.

Côtes-du-Rhône-   LES HALOS DE JUPITER 2009.  A mostly Grenache Rhone that yes even goes excellently with corned beef. Price range; under $15.00.

White Bordeaux/Sauvignon Blanc- Chateau Montet at $8.99 vs. Chateau Tour de Bonnet Blanc $14.99. Both very good wines and values. That said if I were having a holiday party serving a large group; my “go to” wine would be the Chateau Montet. Everyone will be pleased.

Champagne/Sparkling Wine  One choice automatically jumps to the forefront: Champagne De Magerie A Bouzy Grand Cru [$35-40.00].  At this price, for me at least, it is not an everyday wine but a great special occasion choice.  Domaine Ste. Michelle [$15.00] has been our house sparkler for years but since I am writing about 2012 discoveries Piper Sonoma Sparkling Brut at $12.99 gets my vote.

Riesling- Chateau Ste. Michelle out of Washington State can do no wrong by me with their many worthy wines. Their Riesling and Sweet Harvest Riesling [$10.00] are affordable, dependable good wines. An easy choice. A new discovery for me this year was the Dr Loosen “Dr. L” Riesling. At $11.99 also delicious and dependable.

Merlot Gordon Brothers Family Vineyards from Washington State’s Columbia Valley is my clear winner. Their 2007 vintage was so memorable that 8 months later I am still thinking about it.  Priced in the $18-22.00 range it is worthy of the investment.

Malbec- For me all roads lead to Argentina’s LAMADRID. From their baseline Malbec [$10.00] to the RESERVE [$18.00] to their GRAN RESERVE [$28-35.00], which I recently finally tried after sitting on the bottle for 2 years, all are worthy.  Beautiful wines of which I wholeheartedly approve for vintages; 2008, 2009, 2010.

Chardonnay Over the summer I discovered a delicious Chardonnay; Hess Select from California’s Monterey region [$8-15.00]. More recently we have enjoyed Sonoma County’s Sebastiani [$8-12.00]. Both are rich and very well-balanced. For a non-California style Chardonnay [i.e. little or no wood] I suggest Fat Bastard  [$7-12.00] out of France.  Sourced from all over the Languedoc-Roussillon region. Those accustomed to oaky California Chardonnay’s may think they are drinking a completely different varietal. It is smooth yet  dry.

Cabernet Sauvignon- This category for me turned out to be the most varied in pricing. We lucked out; great Cab’s ranging from $10.00 to over $50.00. In the lower priced range Cycles Gladiator was a great find. One that our store now easily goes through a case a week.  In the mid-$20.00 range Sonoma’s  Kendall Jackson Grand Reserve was a wonderful treat, also one I’d like to revisit.  And at the higher end of the spectrum the delicious and exciting Stag’s Leap Artemis comes to mind; complex, full-bodied and powerful.

Sauternes- To complete our holiday meal or any special occasion I always think of Sauternes,  although you can also enjoy this sweet french wine at the start of your evening as an apéritif.  Our 2012 discovery was the 2008 Chateau Doisy-Védrines. Not inexpensive at $30.00 for a 375ml [half] bottle, but it is always worthy of a special occasion shared with worthy family and friends.

Here we are at the end of our first ever 2012  Whine and Cheers for Wine Holiday List. As 2012 starts to wind down I’d like to take this opportunity to be thankful. Very thankful to all my supporters and followers, some that I have had the honor of communicating with and getting to know throughout the year.  All your visits and comments have meant the world to me. Thanks to all of you,  2012 will always be my year of  Whine and Cheers for Wine! 

Thank you!

Happy Holidays

and  ¡SALUD!

 

My life in Zin continues with Four Vines 2009 Old Vine Cuvée

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Four Vines 2009 Old Vine Cuvée

Interesting how I cannot get Zin-ful thoughts out of my head. As I have stated before, most recently in My Zinful Weekend post: Zin to the left of me, Zin to the right…Zin everywhere I turn.

This is yet another wine that I have discovered via my Wine Stewardship with Winn-Dixie.  The price range is $$8.00-$12.00 at your local wine source including grocery stores with sales and coupons bringing down the price to as low as $6-7.00!  Let’s just cut to the chase: at the lower price range I would classify this as a BUY! Even at a $10.00+ price point still a very good buy.  I would compare it to other mass-produced [nothing wrong with that] Zinfandel’s in the $15-$20.00 range. Plus you just have to give them extra points for calling their product “Cuvée”.

Purple Wine CompanyFour Vines originally started by Christian Tietje in 1994 was sold to the Purple Wine Company in 2010. As per Wine Spectator;  a little-known Sonoma firm led by one of the founders of the successful Blackstone brand which was sold off to Constellation Brands in 2001. Purple Wine Company was also in the news earlier this year for selling off their popular Mark West Pinot Noir to again Constellation for a reported $160,000,000.00. Still owned by Purple Wine Company are; Avalon, Bex, Four Vines and Cryptic.

From Wine Spectator who has rated this wine 86 points: Purple Wine focuses on varietal-specific brands such as Mark West Pinot Noir [now sold off], Avalon Cabernet Sauvignon and Rock Rabbit Sauvignon Blanc. Wines are produced in various facilities around the state, including the firm’s warehouse plant in Graton. Its sister business is Sonoma Wine Company, a custom crush and private label house. 

Having  not read the back label or done any research on this wine prior to tasting, I was surprised at how close our descriptions came. From my notes:

Light to medium tannins. Fruit, spice [all-spice/cloves], eucalyptus and wood [oak] on the nose. On the palate; peppery, spicy, fruit forward [berry/plum] but not jammy, fruity finish more woody as it opened.

The Four Vines OVC  turned out to be a tasty wine we paired with leftover pot-roast. I do not believe anyone would guess I only paid $7-$8 for this wine. And quite honestly I would do it again. Even better I now have a low price good quality old vine Zinfandel to recommend to my customers and friends. ¡SALUD!

K&L Wine Merchants:

Four Vines’ “Old Vine Cuvée” is a multi-appellation Zinfandel blend assembled from fruit leftover from their other Zin productions. In this bottling, Four Vines aims to produce a consistenty generous, fruity and easy-drinking Zin, styled for immediate drinking pleasure. With layers of juicy blackberry and black plum aromas with hints of licorice and smokey spice in the nose, it’s hard not to resist! The palate is rich and velvety, with toasty oak and baking spice accenting the finish. This is fun, no-holds-barred Zinfandel and priced to party.

Pete’s Wine Shop:

Four Vines has such a great wealth of Zinfandel that they have the ability to put together a fantastic multi-appellation Zinfandel Blend. On the nose the wine has layers of berry fruit and anise aromas with hints of spice. On the palate, blackberry and spicy plum fruit with a rich mouth feel trailing to a velvety toasted oak finish. The fruit comes from Sonoma, Paso Robles, Amador, Lodi and Mendocino Counties.Related articles

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My St Francis Winery Trio – Sonoma County

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My St Francis Trinity…

Somehow over the last couple of weeks I took a trip to California’s Sonoma County without ever leaving my house. No packing or long airport lines just a corkscrew, three bottles of wine [not simultaneously] and my wine glass.  Of course I wouldn’t really mind the stress of a cross-country trip to sit among the vines but luckily these wines helped me to better understand Sonoma County and its many appellations including; Russian River Valley, Alexander Valley and others.

I have had my eye on these wines for a few months hoping for and taking advantage of sales as they came to fruition. All three of these wines were purchased at Winn-Dixie where I am employed as their Wine Steward. Retail prices range from about $13.00 to $25.00 and are also available at other fine establishments including, yes, even grocery stores with fine wine selections.

St Francis Cabernet Sauvignon Sonoma 2008

We retail this wine at $22.99 but I just saw it on-line for $24.99. Luckily for me a recent sale brought it down to $17.99. Wish I would have bought more!
This rich dark garnet colored, I actually noted “tar like”, wine showed syrupy looking legs as it was decanted and poured in a glass. Strong vinous aromas to start, with dark fruit, oak, tobacco and what I placed as violet leading the pack.  Very rich in texture this medium to full body wine coats your mouth with long lingering tannins.
Winemaker notes:
The grapes in this classic varietal come from five of the top Sonoma County appellations: Sonoma Valley, Dry Creek Valley, Russian River Valley, Alexander Valley and one of the most recently established appellations Rockpile. Hand-picked at harvest,  the fully ripened clusters are crushed into temperature-controlled stainless steel tanks and fermented from eight to fifteen days. After fermentation, the wine is pressed and then aged in different lots for twenty to twenty – three months in new American and French oak barrels. Once the desired lots are selected and blended, the wine is bottled and held another four to eight months so that it’s fully developed by time of release.

This Cabernet Sauvignon has rich varietal character and body. The wine’s firm structure, generous tannins, and depth of color complement classic aromas and flavors of ripe black currant, spicy tobacco, dark chocolate, cassis and spicy oak.

Awards:

SILVER MEDAL, 2011 SONOMA COUNTY HARVEST FAIR WINE COMP. Built and focused, the black-fruited ’08 St Francis Cabernet exhibits plenty of richness from start to finish; soft tannins in the aftertaste.

Wine Enthusiast review:

Good price for a nicely complex Cabernet for drinking now. Dry and smooth in tannins, it shows ripe blackberry, cherry, licorice and herb flavors, with a kiss of oak. -Wine Enthusiast, 87 Points

St Francis 2010 Chardonnay

This wine retails in the $14-16.00 range but I have seen it recently as low as $12.00.

Medium golden in color this fruity oaked Chardonnay brought stone fruits such as apricots and peaches to my senses along with pears, citrus and a minerality on the nose and palate. Not overly rich,  I would recommend this selection for those who like some oak in their Chardonnay’s but not an overwhelming buttery amount.

It was left-over and appetizers for dinner night at our house and this Chardonnay paired deliciously with this ragtag line up; rotisserie chicken salad with walnuts, smoked crab dip, Cajun smoked salmon dip, triple crème brie and even Gorgonzola. Bet you thought I was kidding….

Winemaker notes:

Our Sonoma County Chardonnay derives its flavor from a unique blend of some of Sonoma County’s finest vineyards. hand-picked at the peak of ripeness, this 100% Chardonnay is whole cluster pressed to enhance fruit character then barrel and malolactic fermented to heighten flavor and enrich the mouthfeel.  Aromas of fresh melon combine with hints of hazelnut and citrus. This  medium-bodied Sonoma County Chardonnay displays fresh flavors of butterscotch and pineapple, followed by crisp acidity and a rich, lingering finish.

Awards:

Sonoma County Harvest Fair – Best of Class

2012 San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition – Silver Medal

St 2008 Francis Old Vine Zinfandel

This Zinfandel produced from 55 to 100-year-old vines is priced in the $20.00-$22.00 range with sale prices sometimes bringing it down into the $18 range. I am an Old Vine Zinfandel fan as evidenced recently by my Zin-ful Weekend post so this wine always intrigued me.

Tawny garnet in color I noted this wine was almost brown. It’s ageability of 3-5 years may explain this occurence.  Not super fruity at decanting; wood, spices such as cinammon, nutmeg and clove were detected along with raisins and casis as the wine breathed.  On the palate a spicy dark peppery taste was noted with the wine opening to a caramel, butterscotch delicate burnt smoke taste.  With the ALC level listed at 15.5% I would recommend decanting this Old Vine Zin for at least 30-40 minutes because it truly does soften nicely with the passing of time.

Wine making notes;

The grapes in our Sonoma County Old Vines Zinfandel come from vineyards in Russian River Valley, Sonoma Valley and Dry Creek Valley. These vines range in age from 55 to 100 years old, producing low yields of fruit with highly concentrated, intense flavors. All grapes are hand-harvested, gently de-stemmed and crushed before cold-soaking for three days to extract optimal color and flavor. The fruit is then inoculated with many different yeast strains to build complexity, then fermented in separate lots using a combination of pumpovers and delestage to soften tannins. Secondary malolactic fermentation occurs in 50% American and 50% French oak barrels – 25% of which are new.

In closing:

For those who may have thought this post to be about Saint Francis who on July 16, 1228,  was pronounced a saint by Pope Gregory IX and is known as the patron saint of animals and the enviroment I hope you were not too disappointed.  I’d like to think Saint Francis is watching over not only my hounds but me and mine too.

¡SALUD!

My Zin-ful Weekend – Old Vine Zinfandel that is..

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My weekend of Zin….

I must confess. It wasn’t planned and I had no control over it. Well, almost no control,  I guess I could have said no but since it was mostly my idea and I was hosting; I must enter my plea as; guilty.

My weekend was Zin-ful, full of Zin everywhere I turned. Zin Zin Zin. It was innocent enough when it started Friday after work over pizza. Ending Sunday night surrounded by friends over artesian cheeses [thank you Winn Dixie Cheese Steward!] and my lamb chili in what now has become known as BYO-Zin night.

As most of these unplanned social get togethers go the fourth or so wine is always a little difficult to recall but I did my best at keeping notes on as many of the wines as possible.

Starting the weekend off was the Project Paso 2009 Paso Robles Old Vine Zinfandel a new discovery for me and one I enjoyed so much I have shared it with friends and customers ever since. This wine is produced by Don Sebastiani and Sons who are known for producing accessibly priced quality wines:

The search for the class grapes led our grandfather to Sam Balakian in Paso Robles 30 years ago. Since then, we have been quietly blending Paso Robles juice to add depth, spice and complexity to our California appellation wines. What started out as a small project has now come to fruition. To pay homage to all the work our families have done over the past three decades, we felt it only proper to keep the name “Project Paso.”

Winemaker NotesThere is a vast complexity of flavors and aromas in this wine, driven by the unique Paso Robles soils and the blend of three Zinfandel vineyards. The nose opens up with dried fruit and concentrated blueberry aromas, with white pepper, warm Indian spices, and a touch of gaminess rounding out the background. This wine is similarly complex on the palate, with chocolate-covered cherry flavors balanced by old vine spice and a hint of sweet cigar. Earthy, medium-bodied, with a touch of minerality, this varietally correct Zinfandel gets its depth from Paso’s red soils.

My notes for Project Paso 2009 Paso Robles Old Vine Zinfandel:

Lingering full legs on the glass, dark fruit forward even jammy on the nose with prune, raisin and black cherry. Medium body with medium to light tannins. Very berry on the palate with a dark drier finish softening nicely as it opens.  Comments from guests; Classic Zin, vanilla taste, sugared plum scent, tasted dried fruits and a bit of chocolate, very earthy, lovely red color,  not too strong, not too weak..just right.

I usually see the Project Paso priced in the $14.99 range but recently as low as $11.99. Even lower on-line where it is attainable in the $10.00 range. At the lower price points [$10-$12] this is a BUY selection for me.

ST. Amant Mohr Fry Ranch 2009 Old Vine Zinfandel Lodi Appellation.

Next up: A discovery at one of our Total Wine & More classes last year that I was somehow able to cellar this long.  We were blown away by this powerful and intense Zinfandel at that time and I can see why.  In comparison to the other Zinfandels we sampled it is the NEW WORLD style of wine winner; very flavorful as all the others were but bolder. This one made the others seem as light as a Pinot Noir. Priced at $19.99 here is information provided by Total Wine & More:

Lodi, CA- In the heart of the Lodi Appellation. A classic Old Vine Zin – big, ripe, and chewy with rich raspberry and spicy blackberry flavors finishing with soft supple tannins. From the Mohr-Fry Ranch vineyard with 66+ year old vines. Certified green sustainable winegrowing vineyard.

My notes for the ST. Amant Mohr Fry Ranch 2009 Old Vine Zinfandel:

Dark and rich in color. Raisin, plum and prune on the nose with some wood [oak, cedar?].  Also, tobacco, violet/licorice and sweet fruit smell noted. In addition; blackberry and cocoa were detected on the palate.

This wine would be a worthy repeat offender for when I am again feeling Zin-ful and a good example of how different same varietal wines can be. This is a strong, bold, powerful, chewy wine.  In a good way of course 🙂

Predator 2011 Old Vine Zinfandel Lodi Appellation

I was first introduced to this consistently good wine, also from Lodi, a couple of years ago by close friends.  In fact, friends in attendance at the BYO-Zinfandel social mentioned earlier.  Same friends who had me buy them three cases recently when I came across Predator at our local Fresh Market store.  As per the manager; I made his day! as I loaded my shopping cart with 36+ bottles.

Produced by Rutherford Wine Company the 2011 vintage was recently awarded the Silver Medals in the New York World Wine & Spirits Competition and I love the fact that they use lady bugs as a natural method of removing insects harmful to the vines.

Winemaker notes:

Predator Zinfandel is sourced from 50+year old vines that produce rich and intensely flavored fruit. The resulting wine is big and bold with hallmark “old vine” velvety texture, spice and vibrant varietal flavors.  The lady bug is a natural predator that feeds on insects harmful to plants.  “Natural predation” is just one of the many sustainable vineyard practices that eliminates the need for synthetic pesticides.

My notes:

Medium garnet in color, Pinot Noir like in body. No legs to speak of at first, surprising because of the +14% alcohol level, but developing somehow soon afterwards.  Sugar cured ham on the nose! I am not crazy or alone. Others report it to be bacon. Also noted was a spicy orange peel that may also have to do with the ham, leather, cocoa, casis, and a moist aroma I would describe as wet earth or possibly mushrooms. Light tannins with an acidic finish that was balanced out nicely by food and time as wine was decanted.

Quite the night was had by all and quite the Zin-filled weekend for me. Officially five Old Vine Zinfandels were recorded [I still have the bottles!] and I have written about three here. The other two were;

Adventurous Macchia 2009 Amador County Zinfandel Linsteadt Vineyard available at Total Wine and the 2009 Bogle Vineyards Old Vine Zinfandel

Although quite varied all were representative of the Zinfandel varietal and are very worthy of a repeat performance at the next POP UP BYO-Zin party but with better note taking practices required!!  That said I am already wondering what the next BYO varietal theme should be…..

¡SALUD!

From Wine-Searcher:

Zinfandel (or ‘Zin’as it is affectionately known in its American homelands) is a dark-skinned red wine grape variety widely cultivated in California. It arrived in the Americas from Europe in the early years of the 19th century, and was an immediate success in its Napa and Sonoma strongholds. It wasn’t until DNA research was carried out in California in the 1990s that the variety was confirmed (as had long been suspected) to be Italy’s Primitivo under a different name, or Crljenak Kastelanski, originally from Croatia’s Adriatic coast.